Overcoming the challenges of online dialogue groups

Caux Dialogue on Environment and Security 2020

22/07/2020
Karina Cheah

By Karina Cheah

 

I have never been to Caux. I had also never moderated a dialogue group before, in or outside of the Caux Forum. As I faced the prospect of co-facilitating an online dialogue group in the Caux Dialogue on Enviroment and Security (CDES), I asked myself how, without the experience of being in Caux, I could even begin to recreate the beautiful safe space that so many have experienced in Caux Forum dialogue groups – and in an online format.

Dialogue groups, where participants convene to discuss the day’s events or share their stories, are an integral part of the Caux Dialogue on Environment and Security (CDES). The smaller number, moderated by a member of the organizing team, allows for a more intimate space for sharing. As I was on the organizing team and am quite new to the Caux Forum, I was asked to co-facilitate a dialogue group. This gave me a chance to take part in the conference as well as help put it together.

I was lucky to have the support of Benjamin Callison as my co-facilitator. He has moderated several dialogue groups at Caux. Watching him establish the Zoom room as a safe space, guide the conversation, and encourage our participants to open up and share their stories and concerns was an invaluable learning experience. He opened our first session by asking each of us ‘Who are you?’ instead of ‘What do you do?’. This removed the surface-level awkwardness and allowed us immediately to know one another as people with interests rather than as professional titles.

The dialogue groups met for an hour each day between 1 to 4 July. Ben moderated the first two days and turned the session over to me for the third. I felt much more prepared to step up to the plate simply from having absorbed what I had seen him do. Moderating did not turn out to be as frightening as I thought it would be – and, for someone who is not a fan of public speaking, even in a small setting, I was surprised to find that I enjoyed it. We managed to achieve a level of unfiltered, honest conversation, providing space for different stories and opinions, similar to what I imagine we would have in person. Our dialogue group hailed from five countries. We shared the struggles of our regions, such as what to do about the palm oil industry in Indonesia or the continued environmental skepticism of many in the United States. Deeply personal stories brought us closer together.

There are still plenty of differences between convening in person and online. There’s an organic element to talking in person that is lost online. It's much harder to interject, so the dialogue becomes somewhat panel-like as people cycle through, sharing their thoughts for a few minutes. Connectivity can be a disadvantage – people can drop out of meetings unexpectedly, and there’s always issues of volume and of video freezing, all of which occurred during our meetings.

Even so, our online dialogue group was able to form strong connections, so much so that we still keep in touch via a WhatsApp group. I will take forward practical lessons about moderating conversations and action points on how to help our environment, five good friends and a strong feeling of connection to the spirit of Caux. The technology that kept us apart is also what ultimately brought us together, and I am deeply grateful for that.

You would like to know more about the Caux Dialogue on Environment and Security? Click here.

 

Karina Cheah

Karina Cheah is a rising senior at Colgate University (Hamilton, NY, USA) and is currently working for Initiatives of Change Switzerland as an intern for communications and the Caux Dialogue on Environment and Security. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations with a double minor in French and Creative Writing and plans to continue with all three fields in her postgraduate education. Her academic areas of interest include the intersection between foreign and domestic policy and the politics of Southeast Asia. In addition to her work with Initiatives of Change Switzerland, she is finalizing a short story collection entitled This Side of the Veil, available for purchase in July 2020.

 

 

Featured Story
On

related stories

Water Warriors, vegetable gardens

The language of water – the language of the heart

IofC’s Initiatives for Land, Lives and Peace (ILLP) programme works on the links between environmental regeneration and sustainable peace and security. In 2020, it helped to create Water Warriors, a c...

Mohammed Abu-Nimer

Mohammed Abu-Nimer: Dialogue – Weaving peace into the fabric of society

Mohammed Abu-Nimer is Professor at the American University’s School of International Service in International Peace and Conflict Resolution in Washington DC and a Senior Advisor to the International D...

Sabica Pardesi

Learning to be a Peacemaker 2020

"I am really thankful to the person who introduced me to the Initiatives for Change programme "Learning to be a Peacemaker". It was life-changing in so many ways. It opened my eyes to things we know i...

Irina Fedorenko CDES 2020 screenshot

Caux Dialogue on Environment and Security 2020

The Caux Dialogue on Environment and Security aimed high in its first online edition, with more than 15 sessions and a cumulative total of 450 participants. Experts discussed the connection between se...

SCreenshot keywords T4C 2020

Tools for Changemakers 2020 – Shaping the future together through dialogue

Can you truly listen? What if we all had the power to make our communities more cohesive and inclusive by starting to deeply listen to each other? The Tools for Changemakers conference was a three-day...

CL 2020 piano at the opening

Creative Leadership – Together for Change

The Creative Leadership conference took participants on a six-day journey of personal inquiry to discover what creative leadership is and what kind of leaders they are. More than 120 passionate change...

ELB 2020 livestream panel 2 with camera

Ethical Leadership in Business – Leadership for a resilient economy

The Ethical Leadership in Business conference, on 25 and 26 June 2020, kicked off the first Caux Forum Online. It offered a diversified experience with panels livestreamed from the Caux Palace, networ...

Summer Academy 2020 screenshot participants cropped credit: Alan Channer

Summer Academy 2020: expansive possibilities for the future

The effusive feedback from participants in the five-day 2020 Summer Academy on Land, Climate and Security vindicated the difficult decision to take the course online. Four months ago, this had seemed ...

CDLS 2019 Chau Duncan

Retooling the wheel for regenerative investment

Chau Tang-Duncan, co-founder and chief operating officer of Earthbanc, has been coming to Caux regularly since 2010. It was there that she first embraced the role she could have in connecting people a...

Tony Rinaudo

Tony Rinaudo: For a better future in Niger

Why would an Australian farmer who moved to Africa in the 1980s be called ‘the forest-maker’? Tony Rinaudo, World Vision Australia's climate action advisor, told this year's Caux Dialogue on Environme...

CDES teaser theme square

Land and Security in Sub-Saharan Africa: assessing the risks and seeking a response

As part of the Caux Forum Online 2020, Initiatives of Change Switzerland and the Human Security Division of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs organized a video-conference in French on ‘L...

Rebecca Freitag yellow raincoat , credit: Kristoffer Schwetje

Raising a voice for the future

Read our interview with Rebecca Freitag (28), the German UN Youth Delegate for Sustainable Development from 2017 to 2019, promoting her generation’s concerns about sustainability at the United Nations...

Visier Sanyu discussion Caux

The Healing Garden of Nagaland

Dr Visier Sanyü often sleeps in his tree house. It’s a feature of the 12-acre Healing Garden which he created in Medziphema, Northeast India. Sanyü, a retired professor of history and archaeology, lik...

Caux Palace view night

Climate and the economy in the post-COVID world

As pandemic-related lockdowns and travel restrictions slowly begin to ease and a return to normal life seems nearer at hand, we are at a critical juncture as to how we choose to act towards our enviro...